Mommy’s little helper.
I’m not slurring. I’m speaking cursive.
Mama needs some wine.
We’ve all seen these phrases in memes, on wineglasses and t-shirts, and we likely shared or loved them too. As the holiday season approaches, I’m sure we’ll see a whole lot more, which all seems like innocent fun because we all know better, we all can control when and how much we drink. Right? Wrong. Consider these statistics:
- Female alcohol use disorder in the United States increased by 83.7% between 2002 and 2013, according to a 2017 study sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
- High-risk drinking, defined as more than three drinks in a day or seven in a week for women, is on the rise among women by about 58%, according to a 2017 study comparing habits from 2001-2002 and 2012-2013.
- A 2018 study found a steep rise in the rate of alcohol-related ER visits between 2006 and 2014, and increases were larger for women than men.
- Death from liver cirrhosis rose in women from 2000 to 2013.
Alcohol-related health issues on the rise for women
I’m not saying that fun phrases are contributing to an increase in alcohol-related issues for women. I do believe, however, that our easy acceptance that wine is the answer to motherhood challenges is creating a culture that could be a contributing factor. By sharing and liking those memes and GIFs, we could be making it easier to hide drinking problems in plain sight, not only from ourselves but also from our families.
A recent article on WebMD points to the cultural shifts that have made drinking more acceptable for women, and particularly, for moms. “Women who’ve battled alcohol addiction also point to confusing societal messages. Pop culture seems to celebrate women who drink rather than warn against it. Movies like Bad Moms have become blockbusters at theaters. Advertising celebrates drinking and targets many alcohol campaigns directly to women,” the article points outs.
Alcohol use disorder is not the only health risk associated with drinking. Because of our smaller size and lighter water composition, we metabolize alcohol differently and achieve dangerous blood alcohol levels sooner than men. We are more likely than men to develop alcoholic hepatitis, leading to liver damage, and long-term alcohol misuse is the leading cause of heart disease in women. Research has also indicated that women can more quickly incur brain damage from alcohol misuse than men and has also associated drinking with breast cancer risk.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put some straight-forward terms around drinking in its fact sheet: Alcohol Use and Your Health. The CDC points out that “most people who drink excessively are not alcoholics or alcohol dependent,” but they make clear that excessive drinking does have harmful health impact.
Fun has a dark side
Why risk being such a downer in the moms’ club? Why point out that something that can be fun and enjoyable has a dark side? I’m not really sure, to be perfectly honest. I do have a history with alcoholism (not me but people I care about) and that makes me a little more sensitive to drinking culture and where it can lead. I also serve as the Standards Advisor for a local sorority chapter, giving me a front-row seat to “drinking made me do it” excuses. I do know that, over the past year, I have begun to cringe more often when I read and see these phrases put out as lifelines for moms. I started to pay attention to how often I saw alcohol put forward as the answer, and I began to be troubled by how much emphasis we moms placed on drinking together. I wondered about how often we were drinking alone. And the research I found says that I’m right to be worried.
Maybe it’s time we found other ways to help each other manage the stress of motherhood or maybe just womanhood in general. Believe me, I love a rich ruby-red Pinot Noir or a perfectly blended cocktail, and I’m not advocating that we all have to become teetotalers. Maybe it could be as simple as changing #WineWednesday to #WinWednesday and sharing ideas for making it through hump day without uncorking the bottle. Maybe it’s advocating for book club to have mocktails one month and challenging each other to create the most interesting ones. Maybe it’s just paying attention to when, why, and how much we are drinking.
We are bright, creative, supportive women, and I know we can do more to support each other in healthy lifestyles. Let’s find ways to have our wine — and our health — too.